Hiking Mountain Bisoke Volcano Crater Lake Rwanda

About Mountain Bisoke Volcano

mountain-bisoke-volcanoMountain Bisoke is a dormant Volcano rising at 3711 meters above sea level. The mountain is one of the series of volcanoes that make up the Virunga Mountain Range which sprawls along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda & the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain Bisoke straddles the border of Rwanda & the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the biggest part, including the peak & two stunning crater lakes, lies on Rwanda’s side, in Volcanoes National Park.

“Bisoke” is a Swahili term that translates, “soaked with water”, that was coined by the natives in reference to the two beautiful crater lakes that ‘soak’ the volcano. One Crater Lake sits into the volcano peak, 100meter deep & about 400meteres of diameter. The second Crater Lake was formed at the sides, almost midway to the top, overlooking the adjacent lush slopes of the Sabinyo Volcano Mountain.

The entire volcano is green with lush vegetation zones ranging from Hagenia forest, through sub-alpine to alpine. It harbors an array of beautiful wildlife including flora & fauna many of which are unique to the Virunga ranges & Albertine region. Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys, Forest Elephants, Buffaloes, plus lots of birds inhibit the forest and vegetations along the volcano.

The Hike to the Crater Lake at the Summit of Bisoke Volcano

Hiking Mountain Bisoke Volcano

Start of the hike to the summit Crater Lake of Mountain Bisoke Volcano

Hiking the full height of mountain Bisoke, to the Crater Lake at the top, is a wonderful adventure that even the non-experienced hikers can do in just one day. The entire hike to-and-fro is roughly 6 hours, with 4 hours to get to the top and 2 hours to make it back down. Experienced hikers are capable of making it to the top within 3 hours or even less, and roughly 1 & ½ or less, back.

Like all activities to Volcanoes National Park, the Hiking Day starts at the park headquarters of Kinigi at 7.00am, to meet with the other hikers and the assigned park ranger. The ranger(s) brief the hikers about the park, the 5 Virunga volcanoes shared on the Rwanda side and also offer an insight on what to expect during the hike. All the rangers employed by the park are professional, very knowledgeable & boast a wealth of experience attained from years of leading adventures into the park. Many of the rangers are natives who hail from Kinigi area and have been working with the park from when they were little. All the rangers can communicate efficiently in 4 major languages, that is, English, French, Swahili & Kinyarwanda (the native language).

After briefing, which ends by 8am, head for Bisoke Volcano which is a 40 minutes drive from the headquarters, the first 10 to 15 on a smooth paved road, but the rest is the infamous “African Massage” – a slow bumpy ride on volcanic rocks.

Get to the car parking outside the park, and here you find porters to hire. It is highly recommended, if anything, a MUST, to hire a porter to carry your bag of items. Your bag, however light may seem, gets unbearably heavy as you ascend the mountain. The porters are also helpful in providing a push or pull through the challenging spots, such as muddy, steep & slippery.

The ranger distributes the nicely crafted hiking sticks and you are raring to go! The car parking grounds where the hiking trail begins is at 2700meters above sea level. The first about 10 minutes goes through the communities & farmlands at the edge of the park, before crossing the stone wall into Volcanoes National Park. The stone wall fences off the park, to keep buffalos and forest elephants from crossing into the farmlands, and also control intruders from trespassing into the park.

Mountain Gorilla sighting on Bisoke Hike

Mountain Gorilla. Bisoke is home to Umubano Gorilla Family

Mountain Bisoke is home to some habituated Gorilla families and you stand a good chance of encountering these at the start of your ascent up the mountain. By a good chance you encounter some gorillas, you are allowed just a minute to view them from the hiking trail & are u limited from taking any pictures, a privilege granted to only those that paid the $700 to track them; it thus wouldn’t be fair to them.  Another possible exciting wildlife encounter is the Golden Monkeys. There is no habituated Golden Monkey troop in Mountain Bisoke though, hence all the golden monkeys here are wild and often are sighted shying away into the forest. Along the trail you come by dung of Forest Elephants & Buffaloes, but these are very elusive and chances of sighting them are so minimal.


The lower hike through Hagenia Forest is ambient, as you are treated to an array of different species of trees & flowery shrubs and sweet bird songs. This part of the trail is relatively easy so far, except that it does get muddy on rainy days. There are also thorny plants to dodge, and ooh…the menacing stinging nettles which itch so much at the slightest contact with the skin.

As you ascend further up the mountain the temperatures drop gradually. Oxygen levels also drop significantly hence you tire faster, and you would need regular rests to acclimatize while you enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery of the Virunga ranges.

Get to the summit and be rewarded with magnificent rare natural beauty – Crater Lake, mountain vegetation & dropping clouds, cloudy peaks of Mountains Karisimbi and Mikeno in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is so beautiful to see and experience! How long you’ll stay at the summit so much depends on the weather and temperatures. On lucky sunny days, temperature average about 10oc, which give you at least 30mins to even picnic. Meanwhile they can drop to as low as 2oc on rainy days and you will manage to stay barely 5 minutes. On rainy days, there is also a bad chance of finding the clouds (mist) to have dropped into the Crater Lake that u may not actually see it clearly.

Summit of Bisoke VolcanoBisoke Crater Lake

The return journey down the mountain is relatively easier, filled with sliding through the slippery muddy trail.

hiking-bisokePreparing for Hike

Items to carry:

  • A sweater
  • Woolen gloves
  • Head gear
  • Light hiking shoes
  • Drinking water at least one liter

Bisoke Hiking Tour

African Adventure Travellers organizes 3-day tours which start from Kigali City. Itinerary is as follow:

Day 1: transfer from Kigali to Kinigi for overnight. Accommodation options include: Kinigi Guest House (Budget), Le Bambou Lodge (Mid-range), & Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (Luxury). Accommodation is on full board basis, that is, all meals. We could do a City Tour before heading to Kinigi after lunch.

Day 2: Hiking Day

Day 3: Return to Kigali City, with a possible City Tour in case it was not done on day one.

To book email: tours@adventure-travellers.com or call: +256 782 118 037

More days of activities in Volcanoes National Park can added to the itinerary, such as, Gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey tracking, trek to Dian Fossey Site, Local Community Trails, Exploring the Musanze Caves, Birding & Nature Walks. Trust African Adventure Travellers to tailor a fantastic itinerary!

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